Number of Cruises: 6
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Golden Princess
Sailing Date: January 3rd, 2004
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
My review is going to be
very different than any I’ve written before. I normally come back and
write a great review of our cruise but this time, I’m trying to be fair to
Princess, but yet, I find myself having a lot to talk about. I have sailed
on Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Celebrity and my husband and I were
really up to trying something new…Princess. We had heard a lot of great
things about Princess cruise lines and we love the bigger ships, so we
made our reservation on Golden.
We were cruising with 3 other couples and my husband and I had everyone excited about this cruise b/c it was the first time for all of us on a Princess ship. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale the Friday before we were to depart and we recommend this to anyone traveling. We were able to rest and relax before we had to board the ship and it put all of us in a good mood (didn’t have to worry about the airlines being late or losing bags, etc).
We arrived at the port and this is where the fun begins…the boarding was horrendous…and I’ve never said that about ANY boarding process in my life! It was terrible though…the lines were out of control, there was no organization and it was like a 1,000 people were let loose in a huge warehouse building and you had to “figure out” what to do. There was maybe one employee there to help out, and she looked as confused as everyone else, directing people into the wrong line, etc. We were very disappointed about the check-in and hope that Princess will somehow improve the boarding process. Organization in general does not seem to be one of Princess’ strong points in any area.
The ship itself is very BIG, but yet, nothing really stood out as being extravagant or grand. The main foyer was very “plain and normal”, nothing really out of this world or drop dead gorgeous about it. When I walked on, I thought, this couldn’t be the main foyer, is it? Well, sure enough, it was. Oh well…
We had balcony rooms on the Aloha deck. All of us were very bummed about the balconies. Everything Princess advertises (pamphlets/magazines), pictures are shown that each balcony has a deck chair that lies down. When we walked out on the balcony, there were 2 sitting chairs and a round table. We inquired at the front desk about this and all that was told to us – well, the brochure is very misleading and we are sorry. So, our idea of the balcony was not quite up to our expectations. And, if you book a room on the Aloha deck, your balcony is fully covered or not open to the sky above you.
The room itself was fine – the normal ship room, plenty of closet and drawer space. I really liked the lighting system – when you were in bed, you could reach above you and turn on the cabin lights if you needed to. The vanity was fine and there was a fridge in the room.
I’m going to take a moment to discuss our room steward – he did a fine job but nothing extraordinary or anything “above and beyond” like some cruises I’ve sailed on. He was very nice, but it’s like they know what their tip is going to be at the end of the cruise…so they don’t go beyond the call of duty. I was a little disappointed. For example…I asked for additional towels at the beginning of the cruise and got one extra one, that night. The rest of the nights, I had to fend for myself – no more extra towels were brought in. Oh well, not a biggie but not up to my expectations, either.
The ship itself is nice and maintained. I didn’t really see anything major to discuss in this area. I will comment that Tom and Mary had an excellent review of the Grand Princess about the pool area. They didn’t like the way the wall structures blocked the view of the activities in the pool. I agree with them. You couldn’t really see much of anything if you were laying in your deck chair. But, this brings me to not much of anything was going on at all, anyway! I’m so use to having activities by the pool (the cruise director playing games with everyone) or bands playing music, or ice sculpting – something but there wasn’t much of anything happening. I was really surprised about this, considering our itinerary had 2 days at sea back to back. Oh, and that’s another thing, I’ll never choose another cruise that has 2 days at sea back to back again. It was just too much. Especially with Princess not really having a lot of activities and the weather wasn’t all that great sailing to the islands, so we were “bored” and that’s not even a great word to use b/c we weren’t really bored, I think we were more tired than anything of just being on the boat and feeling the boat MOVE!
The cruise director himself was pretty “annoying” and I don’t even know if that’s a great usage of words. We never once saw him walking around the ship the only time I actually saw him in person was at one of the shows. He was heard on the speaker system everyday and he had the corniest jokes I’ve heard. Some people thought he was a hoot but I guess my definition of funny is different than others. But, he was something else – for sure!
The dining rooms were, once again, nothing spectacular. I really enjoyed the Personal choice dining – we never had a problem with the dining or getting a table at all…and we were a group of 8. So, I commend Princess on doing a great job with personal choice dining.
Only complaint I have is that the service was a bit slow and the assistant waiters were never to be seen after they gave you your first drink. We all ordered iced teas/cokes to drink and after the first one, it’s like we had to “hunt down” someone to give us another drink. Normally on other cruise lines, before you even finish your drink, a fresh one is sitting there. So…just a little thing I noticed that kind of bugged me but to someone that doesn’t care about that…then it wouldn’t bother you.
The food was very good – can’t think of anything bad to say about the food. Even at lunch or b-fast, the food was all very good.
I will stop to say that I was kind of shocked to see this or actually kind of surprised that they did this for such a big crowd, but the b-fast and lunchroom was very different than anything I’d ever seen. There wasn’t any organization to this dining room whatsoever. You could enter at 3 different locations and the buffets were set up at 7 or 8 different places. So, at any moment, someone would just jump in front of you or walk in front of you b/c no one really knew which way to go or precede. I guess I’m from the old school and like the buffet line to move in one direction and it be organized. Well, this was far from being organized and my only complaint about the buffet was just this…it was very chaotic. After awhile, everyone just kind of followed everyone else and you’d just wait your turn but it was very different.
I did like their sanitary wash devices they have. You put your hands under the device and it squirts out anti-bacterial disinfectant. I thought that was a great idea considering all the “bugs” out there.
The shows were a HUGE disappointment to me. My husband really doesn’t get “into” them as much as I do but I really enjoy going to the shows in the evening and I can honestly say, there was only one show that was good – the magician, but other than that, we steered clear of the shows. The thing that bothered me was that they showed the same show over a couple of times during the cruise and this just blowed me away. I am so use to going to a show and it’s something different or new but not these. Their musical show was terrible…we walked out of it. The comedian’s were fair but didn’t understand why they had their show in one of the smaller showrooms and it did not fit everyone. Very strange. But, like I said, I was very disappointed with the shows and that’s something I really enjoy.
The ports were fine. I’ll give you some highlights as to what we did on each island. The first island was St. Maarten and we rented 2 jeeps and drove around the island. This was a lot of fun and highly recommend it. The second stop was St. Thomas, we took a ferry over to St. John’s and went snorkeling there. Beautiful beaches and water. And, the third stop was their private island in the Bahamas. Beautiful water again and we laid out on the beach and just watched the sights. My husband and our friends took a banana boat ride and they enjoyed that.
Departing – we didn’t have any problems getting off the ship when it was our turn to leave but once again, Princess proved me wrong about their organization. Trying to find our luggage in a warehouse was crazy. Thankfully, ours was close by but I felt sorry for those people that had to search for theirs. Once again, they had no one to help people and no one knew where to go or how to go through customs, etc. Chaos!!!
Our friends opted to use the bus transfer to take them to the airport at the end of the cruise. My husband and I just simply took a taxi over to the airport and were there in less than 10 minutes. I would recommend taking a taxi to anyone, but I think our friends simply got “jinxed” on their ride. The bus driver couldn’t find somebody’s luggage and he made everyone wait on the bus until it was found for more than an hour. I think our friends were upset but there wasn’t anything they could do about it once they were on the bus.
Now, let me stop to say that after pointing out all the negatives about this ship and cruise line, we still had a GREAT and wonderful time cruising, just wish it had been a different cruise line. My husband and I still believe that it’s the only way to do a vacation. We are hooked on cruising and probably will be for the rest of our lives. And, our friends had a great time as well – together we had a fabulous time and were able to relax and have a lot of fun. But, if I were to recommend this cruise line to anyone, I wouldn’t. I would have to recommend other cruise lines over Princess any day.
Overall, maybe our standards were set too high or maybe we were expecting more out of this ship, but I have to say that we were very disappointed with the cruise line. If this is your first cruise you will probably be happy with this ship, but if you have cruised before, especially on one of the other lines Mega Ships, don’t go on the Golden. Part of the reason we were disappointed is because we were on Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas one year before. There is no doubt in my mind, for the quality and price of a cruise; Royal Caribbean definitely has a great more to offer than Princess. Everyone has their opinion and I’m trying to be as unbiased as I can but I think I’m highlighting a few areas that Princess could improve in. We can honestly say this was our first and last time to cruise on Princess. Happy sailing to you.